Friday, 21 October 2011

The St. Marys Rivery, by April Yates

The water is moving by at a pace which is tranquil and calming to the human mind. I sit hand in hand with him, legs just touching, resting on the bench, watching the sight. The water has a glint of sparkle as the sun hits the ever moving surface, and seems to have secrets lurking beneath it.
The St. Mary's River is a river full of history. It is a place full of stories from people who are from all corners of the globe, and from all walks of life. It is a place that everyone can enjoy from a young child splashing in the water to an elderly couple taking a slow stroll along the shore. I feel blessed to be near the St. Mary's River. It brings a sense of comfort to me while I'm at school, because I grew up in a town with a river as well.
The water moving through the St. Mary's River is alive and changing, and yet in the same instant is unchanging and as faithful to Sault Ste. Marie, as is the snow in December. The river is unique in this way, watching generations grow old and new generations come into play. I thought about this as I sat on a bench with him, our hands interlocked. It was great to see him, and especially to bring him to this place, this park, and the water.
I told him about the first weekend I was here, and how a group of friends and I decided to 'explore the Sault' we took a hike downtown. It was the first time I had seen the locks, and the St. Mary's. We went up what is known as the "Tower of History", and climbed all 291 stairs to see the sights from above. It was well worth the climb. The sight of the river was incredible. It made me feel at home, and filled me with a sense of wonder.
We watched the elderly couple next to us and wondered if that would be us. The river held our thoughts from each other. It would remember us, remember this moment, and in turn we would remember it. There are so many things unspoken; that the ripples of the water can speak for us.
I've been at Lake Superior State University for a little over a month now, and I see the water every day. From the campus I can see Canada and view the St. Mary's River. I only have a few memories from this beautiful sight so far, but it seems to be a part of daily life here. My favorite part about the view is that it is now part of my home. I love knowing that I can take a walk downtown and let the water talk to me, tell its stories, and feel its immense history.

Stellanova's Passion, by Leslie Askwith

I met the poet Stellanova Osborn when I was working for the Sault Tribe newspaper. I must have gone there to interview her but can’t remember the details of our conversation, although I have a vivid impression of her presence.
She lived in an apartment at Lake Superior State College, as it was called at the time, with a view of the St. Mary’s River and Canada on the other side. The window overlooked the bridge connecting the two nations and the steel mill with its plumes of smoke and occasional fires burning at the tops of stacks like an Al Gore nightmare. She can’t have loved the sight, for her poetry expresses profound feelings for the St. Mary’s River country and the man to whom she was married for two days, Chase Osborn, the only Michigan governor from the Upper Peninsula.
Stellanova was a wisp of a woman, 92 years old, a glowing presence, light skin and thin white hair. Her body seemed so insubstantial that it seemed to be little more than a frame upon which to support her spirit. Her face was animated and her eyes, lively. Perhaps she was happy to have a visitor, perhaps glad to have someone asking questions about her life, as I must have been there to do, but more likely, she was always an interested participant in her own life.
For her past was intriguing. Her story could have been portrayed as historically important, mystically beautiful and scandalous. For most of her adult life she had worked for a former Michigan governor, Chase Osborn, who, with his wife, Lillian, adopted Stellanova Brunt when she was 37. Upon the death of his, by then, estranged wife Lillian, in 1948, the adoption was annulled and she married her adopted father. He was 87 and she, 54. He died two days after the marriage.
On the day I visited, she reminisced about her life with her beloved “governor” on Duck Island as though they’d watched the sun set over Lake George a week ago, not more than 37 years before. She spoke dramatically, in a style as expressive as the words of her poems. “Golden deed on golden deed, Did not so much, Set this man apart, As sunrise after sunrise, Stored in his heart.” (From Man Apart)
At the end of our visit she read a poem aloud. It was from a collection of her poetry, Summer Songs on the St. Mary’ and when she finished, she autographed a copy and presented it to me … “ With good wishes for her hard work and the famous group of humans to which she contributes, Sincerely, Stellanova Osborn and the Governor, December 20, 1986.”
Stellanova died two years after our visit and was buried next to the governor on Duck Island, on a point of land overlooking the St. Mary’s River. Her gravesite is as she’d hoped it would be, marked by a boulder and shaded by trees. “When I lie down in my last sleep, My flesh and bones and dust shall keep, Contented company with these, Northern rocks and northern trees, That I have loved so long! And when some soul their music hears, Attuned to the symphonic spheres, That song shall be my song!” (Pleasant Dreams)
Her poetry intertwines her profound love for the governor with the St. Mary’s River country, specifically, the island where they spent six months of the year. Duck Island is separated from the east side of Sugar Island by a string of small lakes and narrow streams and is owned by the University of Michigan and open to the public. When I visited there with my Girl Scouts in the 1990s, we were accompanied by the property’s caretaker, a Native man who teased the girls by pointing out the porcupine quills he’d stuck into crevices of his truck’s front bumper, an inscrutable joke to most of us white folks.
It was a damp cloudy day and as we wandered around the main living area, it was easy to envision life there as Stellanova knew it. There were several log cabins on a hill, all with porches overlooking Lake George where she surely sat at twilight “While the moon and the evening star, Peer over the alder’s shoulder, And even the littlest clouds, Are admiring themselves in the water.” (From Twilight Mirror)
In the morning she bathed in the river … “To come upon, This shore at morn Is being like Aurora born.” … My spine is cold, My hands are ice, But this - oh, this Is Paradise.” (From Sudden Glory) And she swam in the river at night. “What have nights in Paris, To compare with nights like these, Where I can see the Big Dipper, Between two pin cherry trees? – Where my camp-fire’s smoke and my frosty breath, Are one with the Milky Way, And the river closing over my head, Has taught me that to pray, Is to bathe the spirit at the start, And the ending of each day!” (From High Life)
One of the structures was a decaying three-sided sleeping room, just the size of a bed, where, our guide told us, the governor slept on a mattress of balsam boughs when there was too much commotion in the main cabin. I remember it as being built of logs, although my memory is sometimes faulty, and considered whether or not she may have been referring to this place when she wrote, “The logs that shelter no one now, Still speak. How they have proved, No cabin can be desolate, That has been so much loved!” (From Eloquence)
Her poems enrich my experience of the St. Mary’s River Country. I recognize the meaning in her words when biking along Scenic Drive on a peaceful misty morning. “God walks upon these waters in the morning, In the sublimity of mists that roll, From Echo reaches to the Neebish Rapids, Flooding the deepest fiords of the soul.” (from October Dawn) They express my reasons for taking my sorrows into the forest. “When I carry, The woes of the world, Into the woods, Branches reach out, And brush them gently off.” (From Censors)
She may be speaking to us in other ways as well. As I was writing this, the phone rang and someone asked for “Star.” I said I was not her and wondered if it was simply coincidence that a call came for someone else named Star while I was thinking about Stellanova or whether it was the kind of divine happenstance she may have been referring to when she wrote, “The sun will come. The chickadees are calling. The weeping fog will rise. There is more to the world today and always, Than meets the eyes.” (From Curtain)

A Poem by Jennifer Randell

Just Across the St. Mary’s River
sitting in the car
I stare down
at the water below
carrying massive cargo
ships blow their horns
locks open
rising water
ships continue
right beside
raging river rapid
flowing over the rocks
rushing past the men
standing in the rapids
casting and reeling
hoping to catch fish
right beside
where the water gives way
to the green shores
the trees sprout
along the winding
beautiful boardwalk
where couples walk
enjoying the view
of the beautiful
blue waves
of the river
the great divide
of two countries
my countries

A Poem, Anonymous, but powerful

Constant motion;
It’s kinetic state ignorant of nationality, language, or religion
The bridge o’er which spans is locked and guarded
By the constantly vigilant watchkeeps of two nations
And yet she moves, ever onward

Dammed to provide heat and light
And yet she moves, ever onward
Uncaring and unknowing
Of the conflicts of Nations and people and machines

Icy and swift she flows,
And nips at the toes of anyone daring enough;
Daring enough to enter her embrace
And still she moves onward

She dances with the light;
Dancing with the light, of Day and Night
A ceaseless,
Timeless dance;
Which Humanity is blessed to behold
A dance as old as the Earth itself

Mesmerized I gaze,
Into the Heart of the City.
And I wonder, just wonder
How old she could be
As she moves,
Ever onward;
And dreams of the Sea

St. Marys River, by Alexis Schefka, LSSU Student

I'm sitting on a bench right now, the light from my computer blocking my vision from anything else around me. If I take it away my eyes could adjust, but it's getting dark. Sherman Park is where I am, the beach is about five feet away from me. I'm looking out onto what looks like a giant bay. I can see windmills in the distance and lights from what looks like a factory over in Canada. It feels like the trees are getting getting ready to end their day just like we are. They look very relaxed, especially with each branch and leaf swaying in the chilly night breeze. I don't have a jacket but it's peaceful enough that I don't mind. The sky is the prettiest right now. The horizon directly in front of me is very pink. Whenever I see that I think, “red sky at night, sailors delight.” That means tomorrow will be a nice day, and in the Soo, that doesn't seem to happen a lot. I think sunsets are such strange things when I actually think back and think about what they are. Any other time of day you cannot stare directly at the sun but at this time, you can. It would be sad if not for the fact that you know it's rising someplace else. When it finally sets, it almost feels like the sun is underneath you, but you know that it is just sharing its energy with others.
The water seems to be holding its breath for how calm it is. Nothing seems to be moving or living at all. But I know that as soon as I were to submerge myself underneath it, it wouldn't change at all unless I had the type of adaptation that marine life do. It seems creepy in a way especially if the water is completely black with darkness. In that case I feel safe on this piece of land, but with the sense of safety comes a twinge of guilt; guilt for living on the safe side.

St. Marys River, by Mark Stephenson, LSSU Student

The Saint Mary's River is a feature of the Soo which many have taken for granted. In the mind of a local, the river is such basic feature of the land that, just like air, earth, or sky, is simply there. They do not spare a thought as to how strongly the town is shaped by the presence of the river and it's locks, nor to how much money and attention it brings. It is, at most a source of good fishing and annoying tourists; something which separate us from all of those Canadians, who constantly seem to be coming over.
In the eyes of an outsider, however, the river is an amazing thing, both an artery of trade, and source of natural wonder; and ab excuse to buy fudge. Dear old Sault Sainte Marie Michigan may not be the most touristy of tourist towns, focused as it is on such serious topics as it's university, it's active border, and all the fishing, but in the eyes of a visitor - or, I dare say, fudgie - the ago-worn buildings bare dignity and age, rather than just a desperate need for new shingles. Indeed, to such eyes the river is an amazing thing, filled with all sorts of amazing ships and interesting things - this is where a local would complain about the constant noise - and how one can sit on a park bench, and simply watch it all slide by.
But what of the eyes of one who has come here often enough to have such wide-eyed wonder worn away? Someone who is not as jaded, perhaps, as those who have always sat before the beauty of the river, and yet still cannot claim the title of true resident. Eyes such as these do exist, and as a possessor of such eyes, I can attest to the ability to find continuing wonder in such a river as our dear Saint Mary's. While it might not be the mighty, surging artery of trade and wealth that it once was, while it might not be liquid poetry, flowing as it does in it's otiose fashion, it still possesses a certain beauty.
Early mornings, shrouded with fog; this is the best face the river presents. It is the time of day in which the fishermen still move slowly, not yet warmed by coffee and tea, and prepare for a morning upon the water. Will they catch something? Perhaps. For many, though, the goal is not meat for the table; it is peace upon the water. Drifting out upon the water, surrounded by fog, backdropped by the mills and smoke of Canada, listening to nothing but the ripples of fish; indeed, this is the best way to enjoy the river. A joy least appreciated by those who see it the most, and most appreciated by those who see it the least.
Oh irony, how you never cease to amaze.
So whether you be a jaded local or wide-eyed visitor, don't forget to appreciate that which the river offers. Sit before it, sit upon it; contemplate the quiet fog and beautiful silence of the river and the town upon it. Forget not that wonder comes not only from the bright and colorful, but also from the slow and soulful. Those who have look past this beauty, be it due to a jaded mind, an obscured eye, or being too occupied by chapped fingers, I suggest simply that you take the time to reflect; what you'll see will surprise you.

St. Marys River, by Devin Provo, LSSU student

I watch as the freighter passes silently through previously calm water, sending ripples to the edges of the river. I have been sitting here for a while now, taking in the sights and sounds near this river. Nearby there is a playground full of young children laughing and playing with their parents. They are oblivious to the awe inspiring sight lurking just a few hundred feet in front of them. My attention is diverted back to the enormous ship looming ahead of me. The water level rises as the ship continues to glide swiftly through the cool, blue water. Looking around, I see others marvel at its magnitude. They too look as though they came to the river to find some peace, almost as if it is a temporary escape. This provides a source for the smiles upon the faces of all who witness this sight. The freighter passes out of my field of vision and slowly the water resumes to its previous state. This simple event has brought happiness to each and every one of the people who were in its presence. It is the simple things in life that bring us the most joy.

Relaxing on the St. Marys, By Sean Majer, LSSU Student

As I get out of the car at Sherman Park, I feel the calm, cool breeze blow past me. I look out and see the vast, flat St. Mary’s river. As I walk down the narrow sidewalk I can see the remnants of a broken staircase. You can see how flowing water has carved the landscape. The hill leading down to the beach is eroded and uneven. As I take my first step into the cold, wet sand I feel how soft it is. It squeezes in between my toes as I walk to sit by the water. I notice how clear the water is and walk in. Only then do I realize how shallow it is. I begin to wonder how long it stays at that depth. However, it is getting close to sunset so I choose to stay on shore.
I look for a place to sit down. At the end of the beach to my left and right there are large rocks that extend into the water. I consider sitting on them, but then I see an old log buried in the sand directly in the center of the beach. It is perfect timing because the sun is just about to set. The shades of orange and pink show through the clouds. It looks so beautiful and it’s so calming. As I sit here, I listen to all of the different sounds of nature. I hear the ducks quacking to my right and seagulls to my left. I hear the soft splashing of the water as it comes ashore. Nature is a beautiful thing and it has so many sounds; all you need to do is listen.
As I look out over the water I notice the bright glow on the water from the sunset. I see hills in the distance that stand out even more with the sun behind them. Out of the corner of my eye I barely see the reflection of the sun on the windmills as they spin. I continue to sit on my log and observe nature. Just as the sun starts to disappear below the horizon I can see the flashing lights on top of the hills in Canada and on the buoys in the water.
Nature is my second home. I love being outside and being active. I feel so at peace and relaxed when I am outdoors. I would rather be in a secluded spot alone, but at night Sherman Park was pretty much just that. When I need to get away from everything and relax, this is probably where you will find me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

First Catch First Fish, by Richard Wark

Fishing, yes something that most people would expect a lad born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Canada would have mastered instinctually. And yes Tatamagouche is a real place in Canada’s east coast. I was born there but moved to Ontario in the early 1950’s, finally settling in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada in the late 1970’s.

I had always wanted to fish, always watched with silent envy those who fished. I think I was embarrassed to ask. Knowing that people would have, in my way of thinking, expected this would be a natural ability, but sadly it was not. But all that changed when I turned forty. Something about that age drives people to do all sorts of things they had always wished they had done, like owning a Corvette, driving a motorcycle, skimming the water in a speed boat. Well you get the idea.

It was a Friday morning; my co-workers and I were sitting around the table in the coffee room at work discussing the upcoming Salmon Derby, the best lures, rods, reels and fishing lines. This time instead of sitting there and nodding my head and interjecting a ’yes’ or ’you're right’, every now and again, I opened my mouth and let them know that I had never fished a day in my life, but sure wished I knew how.

That was the changing point in my fishing life, the "A-ha" moment if you will. I let people know that I wanted to learn how to fish and not down the road but right away. I wanted to be a part of this year’s Salmon Derby or at least attempt to fish. A dear friend took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of fishing from the river bank. I should also let you know that I have an extreme fear of water, especially when in a boat, canoe, probably compounded by the fact that I never learned to swim until I was in my thirties and then in a YMCA pool with a life guard close at hand.

He told me what fishing supplies to buy and then went further by showing me how to cast and how to reel in a fish, if one was caught. I listened and watched and adsorbed it all. Saturday morning I was up at four o’clock, dressed, ate breakfast, packed a lunch and thermos and had gathered together my new fishing gear. I could hardly contain myself as I drove down to F. H. Clergue park. This was the day I had anticipated for so many years. It was now going to become a reality.  

Climbing down the river bank and then standing on the edge of the St. Mary’s river bank my inner self was vibrating: I was so anxious to get this ‘thing’ started. Would I catch a fish? Others around me that morning had had some luck, others had not. Which category would I be in at day’s end? I had convinced myself that if I didn’t catch a fish today,I would keep on trying until I did. I would not give up.

With that thought in my mind I cast my first line and slowly reeled it in. I could see my line in the distance, displayed by the moon’s glow as it hit the still, silent waters. It was hard to imagine that I was standing there on the banks of the St. Mary’s river. Having lived here for almost twenty years and this was the first time I had come near it, or had even taken the time to notice it. Standing there that morning I was in awe of it. A river that offered a magnificent view from where I stood, sporting fun to boaters and sea-doo enthusiasts, a means of transportation for industry, a source of hydro electric power, and probably so much more. And now this morning it was offering me the opportunity to satisfy one of my life’s goals.

Suddenly I felt my line gently being tugged. I began to reel in my line, ever so slowly. Was it a snag? Sure felt like it; I gave my line a tug and the line tugged right back. Sure enough it was a snag, I was caught on something or so I had convinced myself. A gentleman next to me came over near me, coaching me to take it slow, reel it in slow. The gentleman made my heart leap when he assured me that this may not be a snag, but the real thing, most likely a fair sized salmon.

After what seemed like forever, but in reality was only about five to ten minutes, the hook on my line revealed itself--well not really. The hook was not visible, but instead was covered by the mouth of a wrestling salmon. Once landed, a word I learned the meaning of that morning, I was able to stand proud. Who would have believed it: my first cast ever and it landed me my first fish ever. The St. Mary’s River had sent me my first fishing catch and not the last one I might add. I went on that year to catch on average five to six salmon each morning for about a week.

I will always be grateful to the St. Mary’s River for being there, right in my back yard. Just like in the east coast I had the Atlantic Ocean, here I had the St. Mary’s River, a river that fulfilled my dreams far beyond that year and the years to come. Something that the Atlantic Ocean never could do. Thank you St. Mary’s River.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Water here, Water there, Water water Everywhere, by Helen (Gianakura) Reinkensmeyer Class of '46, Soo High Teacher of Latin at Soo High from 1950 - 1953

Water here,
Water there
Water, water

The heart of Soo is the water. St. Mary’s River supports a quiet, essential, environmentally clean industry: freighters shipping ore, coal, wood, wheat, to name just a few products, from Lake Superior, through the locks to Lake Huron, then either to Lake Michigan or Lake Erie majestically passing through the locks. As a youngster growing up in the Soo, at night the fog horns and the boat whistles, one long, one short, guiding the freighters to and through the locks would lull us children to sleep. Outside, in the still of the evening we could hear the rapids splashing head over heels on the rocks. With all this water, our drinking water was always cold and delicious. The air was fresh and clean.

It was very common for residents, as it still is today, to have a “cabin” to spend the summers and weekends. Such a luxury was not ours. Instead, we relied on either some one driving us to the beach or taking the bus. This was during the 1930’s and 40’s. For a very long trip we could get the bus at the corner of our house at Carrie and Johnson. With towels and swim suits we waited patiently for the bus. A shorter trip would be to catch to bus downtown. Our destination by bus was Sherman Park, or the Pumping Station where water was purified and send to the city for our use.

The park was fun for children because we could wade out quite a distance and be safe. There were play swings and slides and, of course, a concession stand. Often on Sunday families would gather there for a picnic so the mothers would catch up on the gossip of the past week as they guardedly kept an eye on their children.

Swimming was not the only delight for us. The river provided us access to the large park after walking across all four locks. There we could climb huge rocks and pretend we were the king of the castle. We looked for “clay babies” and Indian arrowheads and paused to watch the big kingfishers swoop down to catch a fish. We could actually see the rapids and had to shout to be heard. That was before the hydraulic plant hushed the rapids.

How generous can a river be? It gave us a chance to visit a foreign country by taking us “across the river to Canada” on the ferry boat. My father, Chris Gianakura, owner of the American CafĂ©, served many Canadians when they came to the Soo. He gave their Canadian money to my mother who saved until she had enough to take the family to Canada for a day visit. We walked from Carrie Street to the Portage Street dock. With a Canadian dime in our hands, we placed it on the ledge of the check-in window and then walked through the turnstile. Off we ran to the dock where the ferry boat was waiting for us. We couldn’t decide whether to stay on the main floor or mount the iron stairs to get higher for a better view. Cars rolled on to the ferryboat as the worker waved one car at a time. Seagulls flew about swishing close to us. They were looking for something to eat.

In no time at all, we were in a foreign country where the King and Queen of England were displayed everywhere; where we could buy English bone china teacups for $1.25; where we could buy English toffee in decorative tins and best of all, bite into a Butter Raisin Tart, catching the syrup with our fingers. This was an adventure that only the St. Mary’s River could provide and it was right in our back yard!

The locks were closed during World War II robbing us of our dearest pleasures. But these pleasures are now priceless memories and to this day, the St. Mary’s River never lets me forget them.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

No Civilized Life, This, by Ken Miller

There’s something about the Ste. Marys that brings out the joy in people. Not the not the joy of a mere civilized life, but the splash-in-the-mud-puddle joy of an uninhibited three year-old. There is something that releases the joy of childhood in someone no matter how long they have been around, no matter what they have seen, how many times they have scolded their children or scowled at a spouse. When they venture out upon the Ste Marys the river will release that hidden joy within.

So it was no surprise when, as I sat reading on the deck of Devil’s Dream, II (my gently aging Tartan 34 sailboat), that I saw Rex and Larry putting downstream on a home-made raft. It was a latter-day Huck and a very pale Jim making their way south on what looked like three pallets, some blocks of Styrofoam, and two old tires, powered by a tiny outboard motor. Seated on two home-built chairs and flying the Jolly Roger (under the National Ensign, of course), they were on their way back in time to their tenth year, each shedding 60-odd years with enthusiasm and, I must admit, a certain flair.

I immediately jumped up and in my most officious voice asked if their vessel was Coast Guard inspected. They proudly pointed to a registration number on the side of the contraption proclaiming that it was properly registered with the State of Michigan as a watercraft. I was astounded into speechlessness, a state that I seldom occupy.

I quickly ducked below and grabbed my camera. The picture you see here is how I found them on the river. By now I expect that Rex and Larry are somewhere south of here, lying full-length on a sandbar, eating their fresh-caught dinner, hiding from the slave-catchers, and having the time of their young lives.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Dog Days of Summer on the St. Mary’s River, By Sharon Brunner

The first time I spent any time on the St. Mary’s River was back in 1993 with my beloved. The canoe glided peacefully down the river just yards from the river bank. The water glistened as the paddles skimmed the surface of the water. Purple and pink hues were splashed across the evening sky. Seagulls circled above us and crows could be heard cawing off in the distance. We paddled the canoe from a friend’s home off Riverside Drive to the channel where the Sugar Island Ferry transports passengers to and from the island. We turned the canoe around and headed back to where we started. A small island sparked our attention and we paddled towards it. The island sported a couple of trees and lots of foliage. Once our interest was satisfied, we headed back to the home on Riverside Drive to bring the canoe back to shore.
Another peaceful evening, my husband and I sat on a large rock and watched a ship travel up the St. Mary’s River. We could tell the ship was empty because much of its hull was above water. We surmised the ship was on its way to pick up coal or ore pellets from the shores of Canada. Many ships travel the waters of the St. Mary’s River. A full moon lit up the sky and had shown a spotlight on the ship. The evening air was becoming a little chilly as the end of August was approaching.
Our children loved swimming to the man made tower that was placed 30 yards from the shore. The river bed was dug deep by large machinery to support the concrete pilings. Large rocks with an average diameter of one yard or larger were placed around the bottom of the tower and extended several feet above the water’s surface. The water is deep around the tower and the family felt elated when they reached the rocks and climbed up on top of them.
An Osprey family builds a large nest on top of the tower every year to raise their young. During a wind storm, which seemed to be prevalent this year, the Osprey lost their nest and the eggs. We were disheartened, then happy to see the nest was rebuilt again, only to be damaged by another wind storm. The Osprey nest is in disarray hanging precariously off one of the beams. However, one small Osprey has survived the ravages of the wind and waits patiently as its mother brings food to nourish its growing body.
During the fall of 1997 we invited another member to join our family, a dog named Moon. She was a medium sized dog, weighing approximately 60 pounds. During the summer months, she loved swimming. We would take her for a short walk of approximately 100 yards to the shores of the St. Mary’s River so she could bask in the coolness of the water that was fed by the cold depths of Lake Superior. She would also swim to the rocks of the tower and walk around the surface with the rest of the family. It appeared that a smile crossed her face when she reached the rocks.
A few years later another dog joined our family, Snickers, a Sheppard mix. He ended up being 90 pounds, a big teddy bear who loves to snuggle. Snickers was nervous at first until he learned how to swim. But with careful guidance he picked up this skill and learned to love the St. Mary’s River as much as we do. He chases sticks as we throw them out to the deeper water. Snickers loves to fetch; but he does not bring the sticks back to us so we trick him into giving up one stick as we throw another.
Yet another dog joined our household and his name is Doogie. Doogie, being predominantly black lab, adapted to the water very quickly. He loves to fetch sticks also. Doogie and Snickers retrieve a large stick and swim in together holding the same stick in their teeth. Our neighbors think this behavior is hilarious.
As Moon was reaching the end of her life, crippled with arthritis in her hips, she found it difficult to sit or stand. She would pace back and forth in the river knowing that the cool water helped relieve some of the arthritic pain and soothe her muscles. We said our goodbyes on February 7, 2011. Moon is very much a part of our happy memories associated with the St. Mary’s River. Doogie and Snickers still enjoy the river.
Our life in Sault Ste. Marie and experiences with the St. Mary’s River have led us to believe we always want to live near water. We love wading in the river, watching passing ships and feeling the serenity that our connection to the river brings us. The overall feeling of our life by the river is one of much pleasure.
Let’s all celebrate the Dog Days of Summer!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Four Mile Beach, Jillena Rose

Late evening on a barren sandbar
And three people range
Its perimeter in the long
Silent shadows of sunset.

Water moves.
The sand is moved upon.
If you walk the place they meet,
You become part of the


There are no deep thoughts here,
No rage, resolution,
Conviction or conjecture.
Only the movement that acts

On the senses. Senses that move
Over shadows, shadows
In low light
On the sand bar.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The St Marys River, by Peter Gianakura

When my siblings and I would visit the Sault Locks back in the 1930's and as we approached the first lock, we could hear a roar coming from the north near the Canadian border. We soon discovered this sound came from the St Marys Rapids. As we crossed the locks and came closer the sound grew louder.

While attending Sault High, a classmate invited me to fish off the shore and cast into the St Marys Rapids. I had never fished at that time, but my friend had countless times. As we stood at the rocky shoreline I could see close up the roiling, boiling untamed surge of the St Marys River as the waters hit and splashed over the rocks and boulders. Some of these rocks were visible, others were hidden, but all added to the disturbance of the flow and to the roaring sound. I was mesmerized at such a spectacle, such a wonder.

Today, crossing over the International Bridge, the much tamer rapids appear. Rocks and boulders are now much more evident, the water much slower and not as disturbing. At this point man has tamed the avid path of the St Marys River.

Still the St Marys flows with a swift and powerful current and one still wonders in amazement how the native Americans, by the thousands, fished these waters in the mad tumble of water with rocks and boulders threatening their canoes and lives. Their skill was admirable and the st Marys River was the home of endless fresh water fish. The St Marys River is the dividing border between two great nations and continues to feed on both sides the senses of sight and sound and the natural species of fish that are still available. This border not only creates a division between two great nations but it also creates a spiritual connection, a friendly relationship with our Canadian neighbors.

Besides the ambiance of its flowing majesty and electric power, the river also provides us a means of conveying tons and tons of new materials and grain to meet the demands and needs of our society.

It's easy to take the St Marys for granted, but regardless, her waters have blessed us all in the past, in the present and in the future.

May she continue to feed us body and soul.

Family and the River, by Cris Roll

I think when you live on a body of water like the St. Marys River (or Lake Superior), it’s so integral to your life that you often don’t think about it. It’s like your family. You take it for granted. It’s just there. You don’t think about the unique or odd or wonderful things about your family because they just are your family. It’s only when you get away from your family as you’re growing up and experiencing other families that you begin to see your own family more objectively. And, I daresay, you appreciate your family more when you compare them to other families.

The river’s like that in a way.

When I was a kid, there was nothing more comforting than hearing the freighters calling back and forth to each other in the night. I still enjoy going to sleep to that sound. Train whistles sound lonely to me, but freighter horns are deep and rich and comforting. Like being wrapped in a blanket on a cold night. I have a friend who I used to take late night strolls with around town who could tell which freighter was which just by the sound of the horns. It was something he picked up working on the boats.

My mother told stories about crossing the river on the ferry during World War Two to get a turkey for Thanksgiving because there was a meat shortage over here on the American side. My Veyette cousins who lived downriver told stories about crossing back and forth to Canada on the ice every winter. In my adolescence, our neighborhood gaggle of girls spent nearly every summer day basking in the sun at Sherman Park and eating popsicles from the concession stand over by the pavilion. One of the moms hauled us back and forth happily, I would guess, to get rid of us in the afternoons because we always congregated in her kitchen or the porch of the house next door. And as teenagers, we all heard stories about the dating couples that parked somewhere down by the river “to watch the submarine races.”

Before my dad died in 1957, he worked at the Locks and rode his bicycle across the top of the gates to get to his work station inside the big stone administration building. Now there are railings on those gates to prevent accidents. My dad never fell off or rode his bike off the gates.

In the early ‘80s, I moved downstate for about a year. There was one hot summer night when my friend and I drove around East Lansing looking for a dirt road because we missed the Upper Peninsula so much. We finally found a two- or three-mile stretch of dirt road but it turned into pavement and, there we were, back in civilization again.

I felt landlocked in East Lansing. I longed to see the river and Lake Superior again. I realized that I just needed to know it was there, whether I looked at it every day or not. The river and the lake had given me my sense of orientation and direction in the world. They’re always to the north (unless you live downriver).

When I left the Sault it was after the air force base had closed at Kincheloe. There weren’t many jobs, and I had gone looking for something better. I ended up in a job I hated, and the wages were no better than what I had made in the Sault. So many young people had left to never come back. People made jokes about making sure the last one to leave the U.P. would turn off the lights. But one day, I decided that everybody couldn’t leave. And I was one of them.

I took my chances, and I came back. Back to the Sault. Back to the river. And it worked out over time, although I was unemployed for months. And now, I can look at the river every day if I want to. I often don’t. But I know it’s there. Kind of like family, there when you need it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Life on the River As told to Gregory Zimmerman

A Life on the River
As told to Gregory Zimmerman

Mose was a bit worried. Christmas season 1941 was coming up and he had just been laid off by the Army Corps of Engineers. He was 21 now and would have made a career of the Corps, but it wasn’t going to work out that way for him.

He had gained great experience on the river with the Corps, including working the river ice survey by skates. Skating the river provides a real close-up view. He knew the river well before that job, and even better now. And he knew his way around boats.

Growing up in downtown Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, he was never far from the river. The odd jobs he worked as a kid included helping out on the US/Canada ferry. (Other odd jobs included helping at Callahan’s grocery store and even earning some commissions by connecting visitors to the Sault with boarding houses they could stay in. His dad had an unusual odd-job related to the river as well, working as an extra in the 1922 silent film “The Rapids,” filmed here in the Sault and featuring a very new-to-movies Mary Astor.)

That afternoon, Mose was up on the second floor of the federal building, looking into enlisting in the Navy. The sign posted on the board stated that would require a trip to Green Bay. That was a disappointment. A trip to Green Bay wasn’t going to work out at that time. Walking down the hall, he was approached by a man who asked it he’d like to work on the Favorite.

Mose knew the Favorite, just as everyone in town did. It was a heavy wrecking tug, one of the biggest around. It wasn’t the first tug to be called the Favorite, in fact it was the fourth, all pronounced with the long i. Its predecessor had an illustrious career working the river but had been sent off to distant duties. This slightly smaller Favorite had also earned a strong reputation for its muscle on the lakes.

Mose spent a year on the Favorite, including time as wheelman. The work was all across the Great Lakes, freeing grounded freighters, salvage operations, even light duty ice breaking. Mose got additional boat experience, including taking evasive maneuvers. During one particular night-time storm in south Lake Michigan, a breakwall appeared unexpectedly, visible only by the lightning illuminating the skies (this was pre-radar). Mose took her hard to starboard and prevented an collision with the breakwall.

The experience wheeling in the Great Lakes paid off. Mose ended up in the Coast Guard, in an LCI flotilla, in action in Africa and the landings at Sicily and Salerno. But before they could help invade Sicily and Italy, the flotilla had to get across the Atlantic. An LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) was designed for landing troops and equipment on the beach, not to cross the ocean. They were rather short ships to make an Atlantic crossing at only 158 feet long with a 23 foot beam, and with a flat bottom. They crossed the ocean in convoy, protected by larger, more heavily armed ships.

During one big storm in the Atlantic , some confusion cropped up about the exact location of all the other ships in the convoy. Mose was wheeling an LCI when he saw the boat immediately ahead looming closer. Another hard to starboard maneuver prevented a collision with the other boat. Mose served with the flotilla in Africa, Italy and England where the flotilla began to prepare for the landing in Normandy. Mose got to come home before Normandy and returned home (on the Queen Mary) safely.

Back from the war, the river continued to figure large in Mose’s everyday life in the Sault. Fire fighting became his career but his avocation was the river and woods. An avid fisherman (and hunter -- Mose also stewards an excellent 80-acre parcel he re-forested, the now 35-year old spruces provides great habitat.)

Mose knowledge of the river continued to expand as he spent hours and hours from the upper river to Drummond in his own boat and while ice fishing, often with Billie, his wife of 50+ years who has her stories about the river (such as having to run an extra set of keys down to Munuscong when something happened to Mose’s set).

Even back when others saw the river as a handy place to discharge waste, Mose saw it as a place worth protecting. He has seen slag dumped directly in the river, poorly treated waste water discharged into the river, and seemingly small actions such as people tossing garbage over the side of a boat. None of it makes any sense to him.

He speaks out against pollution, not in formal hearings, but among his friends and acquaintances. He has been involved in some organized efforts; he worked with Michigan United Conservation Clubs, helping collect petitions for the original Michigan bottle bill. When the Binational Public Advisory Council for the St. Marys River started in the late 1980s, he attended the first few meetings, but found the discussions a bit too drawn out. He viewed his part as being on the river, and talking it up in informal settings. He let others hash out the policies and procedures.

Mose still maintains his 16’ fishing boat, but at 91 doesn’t get out as much as he’d like to. He’s glad to see that the river is cleaner, but sees that we still have a lot of work to do, much of which involves changing people’s and governments’ opinions and habits.

We newcomers working on the St. Marys River cleanup recognize that we’re building on the attachment to the river of the previous generations of river residents. Not all of us can talk about spending a life on the river but we’re trying to keep it in good shape for those who can and so that future generations will be able to.

Monday, 13 June 2011

It Really Is Summer, by Britton Ranson Olson

We have a secret beach my family and I have shared for years picnicking and swimming from. You can't walk or drive to it, but must take a boat to get there. Our first attempt is usually in early June and our last in late September. There have been years we've been able to go into October, but rarely.

Every year the configuration of the beach changes, sometimes pretty dramatically. It’s always interesting to see what's happened during our first visit back after a rough winter. Sometimes there is a stream carved through it, sometimes an internal pool has been created, sometimes it’s big and broad and sometimes there is almost no beach at all. But it's always fun. And every year I can't wait to return and see what it looks like again.

The St Marys, Big and Blue by Robert Flowers

Summer days in the sun
Its rays warning our backs
Upbound, downbound freighters steaming
Their tremendous props churning the water
Their draft, pulling the water to the channel
Walking on the wet sand
Waiting for the water to return
Body surfing the wake to the beach.

Tossing a daredevil into the calm bay
feeling the thrill of a Northern Pike
fighting to escape the hook and line
12 year old arms, battling a 24 inch monster
I win. Now, how do I remove the hook
without those razor teeth lacerating my finger
It's so slimy, the fish skin

A yard full of sisters, and neighboring girls
sitting on the lush, soft grass
greased up in tanning oil
soaking in the sun
How could I, or my friend resist
tossing them all into the refreshing water
one at a time
We were teens after all.

Seemingly endless days of summer
The water was fresh and cold
We couldn't stand to remove ourselves
until our skin was blue
And the night air seemed cold
and we'd shiver for long long time
But the river took away all our cares
and bought peace into our lives

And the ice froze
And the shovels went to work
pushed by boys, who wanted to play hockey
Goal posts were made from chunks of snow
And we didn't want the girls to play
They always wanted to make the rules
No Slap shots, and now hoisting the puck! They'd cry out
And then, during the game, their goalie would lie prostrate, accross the net
taking away any chance to make a goal
But they could take slap shots, and hoist the puck.
They were girls.

17 years old
Can I use the canoe with my freind
You can, but don't cross the river in the dark
We won't
Then the night came
We launched the canoe
Not a flashlight to our name
and in the heart of the channel
a freighter steams up river
And we are in the channel
She can't see us
Adrenaline kicks in.
When it's critical, a canoe can move very fast.
We're still alive

Then we grew up
The river properties grew in value
grew because wealthy people discovered its beauty
Ordinary folks can't afford a house on the river any more.
I would live there still, if I could
And my grandkids would play in the water every day
and my sons would throw their sisters in the water
and the girls would cheat at hockey
and the world would be a great place to live.

Bob Flowers (Dawn Sundstrom's big brother)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Memories of Growing Up on the St. Marys River, by Dawn (Cartwright) Sundstrom

Memories of Growing Up on the St. Marys River

Dawn (Cartwright) Sundstrom

Every summer as a child I spent on her shores, swimming, floating my cares away. To sit on the dock each day and listen to the soft lapping of water was serene & calming,

To view the beauty each day was a privilege and we knew we lived somewhere special.

Sweet memories of boat rides with Dad to Sugar Island to get a Fudge-sickle at the bait store,

Summers on the beach, watching the big freighters glide by, sucking out water, pushing back frothy waves, upsetting our sand castles.

Glorious days of swimming with friends and family, first time learning how to Dog Paddle, water-ski, and dive.

Scary moments of slipping under water and then big brother pulling me up from the depths.

Docks being built, boats dropping by to visit.

Party boats at night floating by with music, and people partying onboard.

Our Wedding in my parent’s front yard along her beautiful shores with a big Freighter saluting us after we took our vows.

Many days we basked in her greatness, family picnics, swimming all summer long…what lovely days and how I miss her!

I now live far away from the beautiful St. Marys River but I come home a couple times a year and I soak her in, the pretty blue waters…

I hope they never turn brown, green, or muddy…please keep her alive because she is our history and our future!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Wide Mouth of the River, by Jillena Rose

Wide Mouth of the River

Four children on a path
between the milkweed field
and the silver river,
the path a narrow muddy string,
nothing like the silver of the river or its big wide mouth.

Heads down,
heads hung down, on the path after supper:
Makeshift path, makeshift stupid
boring game, real plans dissolving
like a muddy string in the dirty rain.

The path and the children and the hidden moon.

If you ask us today, even now,
when we are too old to feel this way,
our voices will crack like river ice when we
talk about it: We were betrayed
by our little sister at supper. She told
our father about our plans, she said
we are not your children anymore
we are really pirates, have really always been
and we
are leaving at dusk
for the mouth of the river and you
will never not hold us in your arms again.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The River of History, By Tom Kelly

For Centuries, the waters of Whitefish Bay
Have made their rocky twenty-one foot leap
Into the St. Marys River Valley

Its' pregnant waters at seasonal occasions fed
Countless, from native tribes to today's sport fishermen
In such abundance that it is impossible to tally

The voyageurs named it "Sault," the "Fall" of
The River, dedicated to the Savior's mother

The Saint Mary's River Valley is home to nearly
A hundred thousand of Yanks and Caucks, with
Finns and Poles, Italians and Greeks, among
Many others

The river is an umbilical cord between
Superior and Huron, as well as a waterpath
To the Ocean to the East

Through our travels, my wife, Maryann and I
Have tasted flounder and grouper, trout
And mackerel, but none can compare to a "Superior"
Whitefish feast

Returning from six weeks in Europe, our home-
ward flight took us above the river, Maryann's
Greatest anticipation was for a "Lake Superior

We Upers were not all born by her waters,
But after forty years living on the river,
Deep in our hearts, we heed the magic
Of this historic river's call

A letter and poem for the River by Al Demroske

...Thanks to you, as per our conversation the other day I have been bugged with one of those damned poetry moments, and here is the result, for better or worse. Is it worth considering?

I Fish from the Bank,

an old man of 80 plus years,
sitting on the bank of the St. Mary's River,
fishing and soaking up the warmth of the spring sun.

Along comes a university student,
also intent on fishing,
and a conversation begins,
"Of Mice and Men," or whatever.

The River smiles contently,
as it does what is has always done:
Connecting the generations.

River Spirit (A grandmother shares the river with her grandchildren)

Grandkids, did I ever tell you about walks along the St. Mary’s river?

Well, when your daddy was a little boy we would stroll along the river every day. At the Locks he would run around the fountain, play peek-a-boo or run and hide. When we were hungry we had a picnic lunch on the grass. As we went strolling back and your daddy fell a sleep, Grams liked to watch the rolling water. Some days it was dark and mysterious; other days it was very blue and peaceful.

I was very sad when we had to move to a busy city. That’s where your Aunt Kim was born. We no longer had the river to stroll along, but one house after another. Grams missed the moving water. The river was nature in its glory. Sometimes I would close my eyes and think about the flowing river. It was an awe inspiring memory. After a couple of years living in the big city, we got a surprise. We were moving back to Sault Ste. Marie. How excited everyone was! Grams continued her beautiful strolls along the scenic river with your daddy and Aunt Kim. But all too soon, school came. So Grams had to stroll along the river by herself. Sometimes I would ride my bike and sometimes I would walk. Without being able to share my walks with someone the river looked lonely and cold.

As your daddy and Aunt Kim got older they no longer walked along the river. That’s when Grams got her first dog, Ubu, the Labrador retriever. Ubu loved walks along the river. I would throw a ball or her favorite king kong toy, and she would jump in to retrieve it. What fun we had! Do you remember when you would visit Gram’s house? All of us would take walks along the river. We took turns throwing the ball into the river for Ubu to retrieve. Then we would climb the rocky banks of the river doing a balancing act. When we got tired of doing that, we would skip stones into the river and listen for their splashing noises. Finally when we were totally exhausted and hungry Grams planned a picnic lunch along the riverbank. However we had to share a bit with Ubu and the seagulls. Later that day we took a walk to the canal. I still laugh even today remembering what you said, Clarissa, “Grams, the river is moving so rapidly as if being chased by a mongoose.” Well, Ubu and Grams did river walks watching it flowing continuously for 10 years, and then one day, Ubu died. Indeed, it was a sad day.

I didn’t think I would get another dog, but what happened! Grams got Ruba, the alpha male, Labrador retriever. Life continued with daily walks along the river. Ruba never cared about retrieving but loves to swim in the water and chase the geese. He’s a funny big guy and loves all the attention he receives from people we pass by, especially children. Walking down by the river which is moving so rapidly, Grams sees baby ducks and geese with their mothers. I also see eagles and ospreys around the Sugar Island Ferry and occasionally an otter peacefully swimming. I watch the trees when they start to bud and then see their rich green leaves. In the fall months the trees are arrayed with color. The leaves are crimson red, bronzy brown and golden sunlight. When they fall into the river they look as if someone just painted them and are still wet. In the winter Grams and Ruba go to the head of the river called Ashmun Bay. The city plows the road so we can still walk by the river. The river looks different in winter. Frozen ripples, birds flew to the south, icicle branches, wind blowing snow across the bay, what a beautiful winter wonderland. Grams has been walking along the river for 21 years, with her dogs.

“Grams, what will you do when Ruba dies, get another dog?”

Clarissa, I don’t know if I’ll get another dog. But what I do know is when I die, I’ll be a raindrop that falls into this river of life. So anytime you want to talk to Grams you can walk along the river and I’ll be there, the River Spirit.

A River For All Seasons By Jeanne Mannesto

Pondering this river led to remembrance of enjoyable recreational activities in every season. Kayaking the St. Marys River on a sunny warm day in early autumn going downstream on three mile run in the red river kayak with you in the green one way over there on the American side of the river was a pure adrenalin rush. I caught the current by the Canadian shoreline in the shallows where the white caps proved a challenge to keep going in the right direction. Then reaching relatively calm water in the narrows slowed the paddling down considerably. I sat back and let the river take the boat passing by the loon who lives here. The cool water on my bare toes felt good while pulling the river kayak on shore to relax in the sunny spot on the dock before loading it up in the truck at the small park across from the white church.

The wait with anticipation for the perfect calm bright day of crystalline pastel blue water to motor around Sugar Island in summer always proved fruitful. We loaded the Chris Craft with subs and beverages for a picnic lunch at the park on St. Josephs Island, donned wide brimmed Tilley hats and sunscreen, and settled in for an enjoyable trip. We traveled south going through Lake St. George. After the picnic, it was fun to go down through the channels at St. Josephs Island to see the interesting homes and huge boulders where the local youth jumped into the frigid water. Then we navigated around the tip of the island heading for Aune-Osborn boat launch waving to the other boaters cruising by or those anchored for fishing. We made way for the thousand footer freighters heavy with loads and low in the water. The majestic osprey sat on their nests atop channel markers. The summer scenery of nature, water and fresh air filled us with delight. Pulling back into the dock to tie up and cover the craft always left a bit of nostalgia that another good day was drawing to a close.

In wintertime when the river runs frigid and ice shards form on the shallows which tinkle in the breeze like a glass bell concert, I donned my cross country skis leaving the cottage at sunset to watch the Canadian shield turn pink then a deeper maroon. I slid across the frozen snow and ice encrusted beach going south to the point. Sometimes the otter came out from the caisson to slide silently by looking back at me. One time the woods were lightly coated with snow. It looked like the cook from heaven’s kitchen sifted powdered sugar over the entire area. It clung upon every twig and bough this side of the river. All the evergreens on the Canadian side looked regal. The river ran a peaceful silent steel blue that day with an occasional jay cry in the distance.

In spring the recreational fun was fishing in the rapids by the International Bridge. We crossed the bridge to get to Whitefish Island, hiked to the shoreline to get into the rapids and pulled on waist high waders. We used walking sticks to stay upright on the slick rocky uneven slippery floor of the freezing river sometimes holding hands. The strong current sucked the air out of the waders which get tight to the body. Once at the concrete abutment, we sat in the warmth of the sunshine, got the gear out and hoped for a bite. Other fishermen caught and released steelhead trout. I went home with an empty basket.

Writing the St. Marys River is a good way to re-create these joyful times in all seasons.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Border scofflaws

By Rick Smith
Many years ago when I was a lad living on the northern shore of Sugar Island, some of my friends and relatives would often accompany me when I crossed the river, and consequently the U.S./Canadian border, to see other friends and relatives in Garden River, Ont.
Of course, crossing the border without benefit of going through governmental checkpoints was highly illegal, but no one seemed to mind and we weren’t doing any harm, so we didn’t think much of crossing the border as we pleased. Still, we kept an eye out for any form of law enforcement that might spot us as crossed in rowboats.
One evening, as the sun was setting, a cousin and I were returning to Sugar Island from Garden River and had just reached shore when a bright yellow airplane on pontoons set down in the middle of the river just east of us. With the aid of a bullhorn, the men in the airplane identified themselves as Canadian border agents and asked us to row back out to them. We knew this wasn’t good for us. We also knew we had a couple of thing in our favor — one, Canadian law enforcement doesn’t have any jurisdiction in U.S. territory; and, two, the current travels east along the northern shore of the island at about seven miles per hour, leaving the airplane in a tricky situation.
We politely declined their invitation and, as we walked inland from the dock, we heard the airplane’s engine accelerate and we turned our heads around just in time to watch it take itself back into the air.
It was a long time before we crossed over into Garden River again, just as a precaution.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Reflections on the River

By Thaddeus Lewandowski

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
- Heraclitus

Upon reflection, it seems the St. Marys River has played at least some role in most of the major events of my life over the past four years. It’s hard to say whether the water’s presence has driven the plot of each event, but in every case the St. Marys has offered a most attractive setting.

A friend of mine, after leaving the area of the upper Great Lakes, said his new home was “way too dry” and that he missed the River in particular. I was too obtuse to really understand what he was referencing; at that time I still had the River to enjoy on a daily basis. His words make sense only after having moved away myself.

On an opening day of duck season not too long ago, I was awoken at 2 am by a small group of friends including the one mentioned above by frantic knocking upon my door. They only agreed to leave when I promised to meet them down the street for an epic breakfast before heading out to get a prime spot along the river at dawn. I gathered my gear and met them for a meal that didn’t disappoint before heading off for what was to be my first duck hunting experience.

Half an hour later, it was still 3 hours before the season officially opened, and the icy ankle deep water I was standing in competed with the breezy 26 degree air temperature for which factor would cause me to dislike duck hunting more. Looking to the heavens in an attempt to solicit understanding about why people participate in such a sport, I saw the constellation Orion for the first time that season, along with a multitude of other stars. Their glimmer reflected off of the still surface of the St. Marys in a way that couldn’t be imitated by the red and green lights of the buoys floating in the water. What I had first thought to be absolutely miserable became a most powerful and resonant image.

About six months later, I received a phone call from a buddy who was graduating from college and couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with anxiety of starting a new chapter of his life. We decided to go for a drive but didn’t say much once in the car. I think we were both a little hypnotized by thoughts of change and were silent under the influence of introspection. Without really having a plan or destination, I turned in the direction of the River. It was snowy, and the roads were covered with ice, making the boundaries of the parking lot along the shore where we were to stop difficult to discern. My senses came back after a while and I admitted that I must have taken a wrong turn and that we should turn around. My buddy blinked once or twice, took a closer look out the window of the passenger seat and said, “Uh, yeah dude, you should turn around….WE ARE ON THE RIVER.” Thank goodness for the thick ice brought about by late springs.

Around the time of my own graduation, I had an interview for a graduate position that would take me to an international university. It was a big decision in my life, and after the interview I too had thoughts of an uncertain future, so I went for a walk at Bellevue Park to think. It was one of the first pleasant days that spring and shore birds seemed particularly zealous along the bank of the River as I sipped coffee and mulled my future. Their noises paired with gentle waves along the rocky shore provided a soundtrack for a decision that will undoubtedly affect the rest of my life.

Each story has a different cast of characters that give the memories a rich and vibrant tone, regardless of how mundane or emotionally charged the events were as they unfolded. However, the River cannot be separated from these memories and I am fortunate to have several more. As time passes, I feel very lucky to have experienced a personal “River of History” and it is hard to imagine what will come next without some input from the St. Marys.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

From the "A Picture is worth 1000 Words" Department...

The vessel Sioux moored at the west end of MCM Marine
Photo by Gary Thurston, Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Fish Cam

by Heather Mydosh
It's been an age since I've crossed the St. Mary's. Four years, I could see it out my bedroom window. Now it's been four years since I've seen it at all. I remember the marshes, the boardwalks on the Canadian side visible from my drivers' side door while crossing the Bridge, the look of it while munching at West Pier in the summer and sipping hot cocoa on Portage in winter. Now, my only remaining connection to it is the Fish-Cam. Currently, all it's showing me are some rather impressive sturgeon in a tank in the Fish Lab, but I eagerly await the time when unnamed researchers will pop the webcam back beneath the skin of the river and my privileged browser will once more track the movements of fish and particulate skimming past an artificial eye half a world away, and inquisitive fish will peer unseeing from my screen to inspect the books on the shelves behind me and the quality of Scottish air. That this live feed plugs one of my senses back into an aspect of a river I used to know, at least in a cursory way— a live feed from back where I used to live. What a curious thought: having left the river, the towns, the continent, I can still (albeit via technology) tap back into a life I've left and even while I was there didn't precisely have access like this. I could chill my toes, but now I observe the fish.

Moderator's Note: To view the Fish Cam at Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Lab, visit and select the Fish Cam link on the right hand side of the page.


by Jillena Rose

Friday signaled the official beginning of river watching season for many locals thanks to the yearly opening of a sixty-two year old institution on the river—Clyde’s Drive-In.

Clyde’s has been opening every spring since 1949. The owner—Clyde Van Duesen—opened for the first time in 1949. The Drive-In is wisely located right next to the Sugar Island Ferry, a long, white flat barge with a red-trimmed navigating tower that crosses the river several times a day taking people back and forth from work to home. Just to the East of the building is the entrance to Rotary Park, a small but picturesque place where campers and local parents bring their kids to play for a few minutes at lunch or the end of the day. Clyde’s has a built-in clientele. Island hoppers come to the ferry a little early so they can park their car, step across the lot to the restaurant and enjoy a burger or a fish sandwich while they wait their turn to cross the river, and park visitors who strategically plan dog walking time to coincide with lunch or a shake break. But Clyde’s isn’t only for the locals.

License plates from all over the country and provinces in Canada are not really surprising in the line-up of cars and trucks that skirt the edge of the drive-in. Car diners typically turn their backs to the building to watch the river go by. Clyde, I am sure, approves of this position. Three of the four walls of the restaurant are floor to ceiling plate glass. Clyde knew the main attraction of his location—the river and what travels on the river. For tourists and locals alike, this is a great freighter watching location. The Soo Locks is not quite a mile west of Clyde’s, so, whether a freighter is upbound or downbound, by the time they come into view of the long flat grill behind the counter inside Clyde’s, they are moving slowly, majestically through the shipping lane, a great photo opportunity for devotees and casual observers alike. And there have been some very avid freighter watchers who’ve selected this one spot to record the comings and going of the hard-working vessels that traverse the locks. The second bench facing the river as you enter Rotary Park has a sign on the back of it:

Donated by Friends and Family of Andy La Borde
Creative Photographer, knowledgeable of Great Lakes Vessels. From Milwaukee Wi.
Please rest your bones and salute 3 long and 2 short because Andy would appreciate it.

Clyde’s has helped shape a gathering place along a river and in a city that has been the gathering place for centuries of people who come to the river to move on, to record what they see, or to remind themselves of why they stay in this quiet little town. And Clyde knows the power of these gatherings better than anyone. He met his wife at the restaurant, not long after he opened it. She was a car hop. I met both of them last May at a Mother’s Day breakfast in the basement of St Ignatius Loyola Church in St Ignace, their home. They told me about how they met and talked about the restaurant. Clyde is eighty-one now. After the gathering at church they were going to go home. Clyde was going to make dinner for his wife—hamburgers on the grill.

They’re open for the season now, until some last grey Saturday or Sunday in November when, in the silent, almost empty parking lot, workers will clean the grill, empty the coffee pots and place boards over the plate glass until next spring. And the flurry of picture takers and island hoppers will turn inward to their cars to keep warm and hurry home to gather in their kitchens until Clyde’s opens again.

Monday, 28 March 2011

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

People Watching

by Gregory Zimmerman
My professional and personal interests are centered on ecology of natural habitats. I feel more at home in a grassland, forest or marsh than in a big city. I don’t seek crowds of people. But I’m not a curmudgeon. Sometimes I want to see lots of people. A city festival without a crowd is a sad city festival.

Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan puts on a pretty good Fourth of July celebration (right after Sault Ontario has put on a pretty good Canada Day celebration. The parade draws thousands of people. Crowds of people go down by the St. Marys River to see the fireworks. One of my favorite spots to see the fireworks is the Kemp Marina. The walkway around the marina is designed for public access. You can get right out onto the river. A good number of people gather there to watch the fireworks. It’s enough people to have a festival feel, but not so many as to induce claustrophobia.

Another very enjoyable mix-it-up-with-people event taking place from Canada Day to the 4th is the annual pancake breakfast. It’s a funraiser to support local challenged children. For a couple bucks you get sausage, pancakes, orange juice and coffee, cooked and served in a barge outfitted specially for this occasion. The barge spends a few days on the Canadian side then is floated across the river to our side. It’s quite enjoyable and it’s nice to catch up with friends and acquaintances at this offbeat event. Along with Breakfast-on-the-Barge is the tugboat parade and race. Seeing a flotilla of tugs motor up and down the river together is unique to river towns.

These events draw nice crowds. People gathering at the river is a great thing and the river provides an excellent backdrop for it. The river is important for the ecology of animals and plants; it’s also important for the ecology of people.

St. Marys River Marshes

by Gregory Zimmerman

For me, much of the appeal of the St. Marys River is that its mainly natural river bank. Only a small portion of the river bank is, as the river scientists say, ‘armored.’ River bank armor includes sea walls, concrete, rip-rap, and other man-made structures. Through the twin Saults, the shoreline has been armored, but along most of the rest of the river, it’s still in a more natural state, serving as habitat for a wide diversity of plants, animals and other organisms.

Of the variety of habitats, the marshes are among my favorites. Maybe it’s that I moved here from the prairies and plains and still carry an appreciation for grasses and open sky. I like wide open views. It can be fun to be the tallest thing in the landscape.

Maybe marshes are a favorite because they represent a natural heritage in short supply in other places where people have filled them in for construction projects. Much of the St. Marys River shoreline is still in its ‘un-improved’ state. When I visit other rivers, I get a sad feeling when I see a lack of natural habitat. Where the Mississippi has been converted to a channel (that people think they’re able to manage), it’s something else other than the Father of Waters. The St. Clair River is diminished from its natural state in many ways, one of which is the fact that almost all of its banks are steel, concrete and rip-rap.

I recently visited the St. Clair River to learn of the restoration projects that will bring a mile of native habitat back. It’s an expensive proposition to put nature back. Here on the St. Marys River we have 60+ miles of that without having to spend millions. I guess that makes ours a multi-million dollar view.

When I stand on the bank of a marsh or paddle by and into it, I think my academic thoughts of the species and the valuable ecosystem services they provide. I think of the ecological processes at play and the need to conserve the marsh, preventing invasive species from taking over, encouraging good management practices to prevent the inputs of pollutants, preventing contaminated sediments from re-entering the system. All the kinds of things I teach classes in. But that’s not what really draws me to the marshes. It’s the view that draws me there. Where land gradually gives way to water, where land and water meet sky. Where you can gaze across miles of open space.

Whether for work or recreation, love to visit and re-visit my favorite marsh sites such as 9-Mile Marsh and Munuscong Marsh.

Purpose of Writing the St. Marys River

The St. Marys River is an amazing resource. It's rich in cultural and natural heritage. It enriches our lives. This blog is for you to post your creative non-fiction works that celebrate the river. Inspire others to appreciate our river and to work to conserve it.

Send your essays or other works to We will then post it with full attribution to you as a post on the blog.

Write the St. Marys River is a project of the Binational Public Advisory Council for the St. Marys River Area of Concern and Lake Superior State University. Visit for more information about BPAC.

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